Dead Ringer-1964

Dead Ringer-1964

Director-Paul Henreid

Starring-Bette Davis, Karl Malden

Scott’s Review #67

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Dead Ringer is a black and white thriller from 1964 starring Bette Davis in her final leading role before she took on character and supporting roles. It’s an interesting dual role for Davis, and being a huge fan of hers, two is better than one.

The story centers on a wealthy widow and her twin sister, a struggling bar owner. The two have not spoken in decades and renew their animosity at a funeral. One plots the others death, which results in an entertaining game of mistaken identity. Davis clearly carries this film and is dynamic in every scene she is in- those eyes, facial expressions, and throaty voice. Her characteristic sexy pose with cigarette is utilized often. She is simply dynamic.

The story and plot are carefully crafted and the angles showing both characters are impressive for the time (1964). The differing lifestyles of the characters also make for a more challenging performance by Davis. Karl Malden is a treat as a love interest of one of the sisters.

And Then There Were None-1945

And Then There Were None-1945

Director-Rene Clair

Starring-Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson

Scott’s Review #66

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: C+

And Then There Were None is adapted from a famous Agatha Christie novel of the same name from the 1930’s, the first of 3 film adaptations over the years. A group of 10 individuals from all walks of life are summoned for a weekend of merriment at a secluded mansion on a lonely island. The premise is perfectly set up for a fascinating whodunit as the characters are knocked off one by one in sometimes bizarre fashion- the bee sting death is great. There are a wide range of characters- the rich movie star, the spinster, the doctor, the house servant and his wife). For starters, I was very disappointed in the DVD quality (no Blu-Ray is available for this film). The picture and sound are abhorrent. The quality is quite grainy and faded and made watching an unpleasant experience. However, a great film might withstand those issues. The film has some appeal that the novel had- an interesting whodunit. The character histories are similar to the ones in the book and, to be fair, the film is well acted, and the wonderful Judith Anderson (Rebecca) is always a treat to watch. But the most disappointing aspect is the blatantly changed and completely upbeat, romantic comedy ending, which is vastly different from the dark novel ending and lost major points with me for the adjustment.

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Blood Feat 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-J.P. Delahoussaye, Christy Brown

Scott’s Review #65

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat is a sequel to the original Blood Feast from over 30 years ago. It is not necessary to see the original before seeing this film (I hadn’t). The original killer’s grandson is the gruesome caterer/maniac in this installment.

Director H.G. Lewis heavily influenced John Waters, who has a fantastic cameo as a perverted reverend. This movie is so over the top and campy it is certainly not to be taken at all seriously. The premise, if one can call it that, involves a lunatic caterer intent on using various female body parts to concoct a scrumptious meal to serve at a wedding. The film is more of a comedy than a horror film in the traditional sense. The victims are clearly bubble-heads, mispronouncing words and traipsing around in skimpy outfits (or less) for no reason. The mean spirited mother of the bride is a delight. Scenes of taste testing and the presentation of “lady fingers” are hilariously creative. Campy in every way and poorly acted, but good late night fun.

Fruitvale Station-2013

Fruitvale Station-2013

Director-Ryan Coogler

Starring-Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer

Scott’s Review #64

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Not knowing all of the actual details of this incident, and just taking account the details the film presents, it’s a very good film. Most of the film is the lead up to the big incident.

While not perfect, the victim is presented as a good guy, helps strangers, stray dogs, loves his daughter, and has a great heart. He lives a tough life as he has been in and out of prison, and is forced to sell drugs to make a living. But he has a strong family unit (mother, grandmother, girlfriend, friends) so he lives a decent life. The cops in question are presented very negatively (intense, racist, and brutal). Again, I don’t know what really happened, but obviously the film makers are on the side of the victim (as they should be). The police reasons are revealed at the end of the film. It’s a heartfelt, good, solid portrayal.

Diana-2013

Diana-2013

Director-Oliver Hirschbiegel

Starring-Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews

Scott’s Review #63

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: C+

Assuming all of the details of the film are accurate, this film was an interesting account of Princess Diana’s last two years of life and her transition from married royalty to single woman, all the while being the most famous woman on earth.

While the film was interesting, I ended up feeling something was missing and it was not as gripping as I had hoped. I also did not quite buy Naomi Watts as Diana. Her mannerisms were off to me and the real Diana was taller. Also, I didn’t quite believe that Diana could throw on a brown wig and walk freely around London unrecognized. There was no chemistry between Watts and Naveen Andrews, who played a successful heart surgeon whom Diana begins a romance with. These criticisms do not mean the film was a total fail,(there was a sincere likability and charisma that Watts brought to the role), but not as good as one would have hoped.

12 Years a Slave-2013

12 Years a Slave-2013

Director-Steve McQueen

Starring-Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender

Scott’s Review #62

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: A

At the time of 12 Years a Slave’s release, a ton of buzz began circulating. Was it that good? Considered the front runner to win the Best Picture statue, it did indeed win the top honors. The film is not an easy watch- it is brutal and heart-wrenching at times. I will spare the details, but the most intense scene involves a whip. There are scenes of torture, degradation, and cruelty against the slaves by the slave owners. While tough to watch, I applaud the film for not glossing over the atrocities of slavery. Some have criticized the film for being a retread of similar films, but I disagree. It is worlds more intense than watered down versions.  However the film is not a downer. Yes, a class of people are beaten down and victimized, but they also rise above and never give up hope. The fact that it’s a true story and a book was written on the subject by the real Solomon Northup makes it all the more powerful.

The performances are clearly outstanding (Ejiofor, Fassbender, Paulson, and Nyong’o). The look of the film and cinematography are sharp and I loved the distinctiveness of the north and south scenes. The setting is stifling hot and dreary. There are at least 2 scenes where the camera pans on a shot and holds it for seemingly and eternity until an action occurs, which made the scenes effective. While difficult to watch, this film should be viewed by everyone to see how far we have come, but not forget how far we still need to go to eliminate discrimination and victimization.

Anatomy of a Murder-1959

Anatomy of a Murder-1959

Director-Otto Preminger

Starring-James Stewart, Lee Remick

Scott’s Review #61

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Anatomy of a Murder is a thought provoking, courtroom/legal thriller that is not a black and white, good and bad story. It is deeper and more complex than that.

Starring James Stewart as an everyman defense attorney, the film, shot effectively in black and white, pushed barriers for its time (1959), by using certain words such as “rape” and “panties” that were never spoken in films before this time. Much of the action takes place inside the courtroom.

The film pushed the envelope and is still enjoyable today. Over the course of the film, which is admittedly slow at times, the audience finds itself unsure of the guilt of the defendant and is wary and suspicious of him from the star, which makes for great drama.

The rooting value is with Stewart, who is clearly the hero, and the interesting supporting cast provides deeper layers than similar type film that run the risk of being wordy or preachy. As each new fact or twist and turn arrives throughout the film, it becomes more and more engaging until it reaches a satisfying climax.

The Amityville Horror-1979

The Amityville Horror-1979

Director-Stuart Rosenberg

Starring-James Brolin, Margot Kidder

Scott’s Review #60

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Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: B-

The Amityville Horror was undoubtedly more thrilling upon its original release in 1979, but sadly, time has not been kind to this particular film, as it does not hold up well any longer. It feels dated, but that is not to say it is at all un-enjoyable.

The atmosphere of the movie and the building tension and sense of dread are effective. The audience knows bad things will eventually occur. The look of the film is dark and creepy and actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder are adequate in the lead roles. The main problem with the film is all along there is a feeling that I am watching a pale version of The Exorcist or The Omen, far superior films in my opinion, with the religious theme that was heavily used in the horror genre throughout the 1970’s. Also, horror in 1970’s cinema was at its best and by 1979, horror had shifted into the knife wielding maniac vein. Add to this the fact that the supposedly “true story” has since been proven a silly hoax, so it certainly takes away any shred of seriousness. To be fair, the scene involving the herd of flies is scary, but other scenes seem silly and inconsequential. The Amityville Horror is not a bad movie, but similar films are far superior.

The Waiting Room-2012

The Waiting Room-2012

Director-Peter Nicks

Starring-Cynthia Y. Johnson, Eric Morgan

Scott’s Review #59

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Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: B+

The Waiting Room is an interesting documentary that takes the viewer on a day in the life shift in a very busy public hospital in a poor section of Oakland, California. Most of the patients are uninsured, low paid or unemployed workers, who are sick and in need of medications and treatment and in some cases are quite ill.

The documentary balances the perspectives of both the patients and the weary hospital staff, who strive to prioritize cases and treat everyone, which is not easy due to overcrowding and under-funding. I found the documentary quite fascinating and felt like I was an actual observer during a chaotic, yet every day experience in the busy and stressful Emergency Room. The situations that arise are heartbreaking and the staff does their very best to accommodate each patient, but many times tragedy ensues or tempers flare due to frustration.

It speaks volumes of the shameless world of insurance company profits and selfishness at the cost of human lives and patient suffering.  Sadly, this documentary was overlooked by the Oscar academy, but did receive an Independent Spirit nomination.

Passion-2012

Passion-2012

Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Rachel McAdams

Scott’s Review #58

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Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: A

Passion is a must see for all Brian De Palma fans (Carrie, Dressed to Kill). Unfortunately, the film received little fanfare and is mostly forgotten, but it deserves a viewing. The film is set in the world of advertising, where backstabbing and scheming are commonplace.

Rachel McAdams stars as an executive who steals her assistant’s ideas on a regular basis. Fed up, the assistant plots revenge. McAdams is delicious as the callous, calculating, little girl over her head in the corporate world. The praise goes to DePalma, though, for creating yet another stylistic gem similar in tone to many of his other successful films.

The plot is almost secondary to the direction- twists and turns, cool camera angles make the film an enjoyable experience. A common DePalma trait is a dreamlike feel which I love in his films. The ending is a direct homage to Dressed to Kill.

The Snowtown Murders-2011

The Snowtown Murders-2011

Director-Justin Kurzel

Starring-Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall

Scott’s Review #57

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Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: C+

The Snowtown Murders is an Australian film, based on a true story, of a charismatic, manipulative man who influences a family of misfits into following his murderous streak. The film is helped by a group of very talented actors (unknowns to me) who successfully relay a sense of bleakness and despair in their lives and some fine, emotional acting makes this film slightly above average. In fact, the entire look of the movie is dreary, raw and hopeless, from the lighting to the camera shots. The details of the film are impressive- from the confined, dismal house the family lives in, and the unhealthy meals consumed, all are filled with a sense of chaos.

The Snowtown Murders pushes the envelope with the explicitness of the murders and torture scenes, so the viewer is left feeling uncomfortable. The downside of the movie is that it drags at times and meanders along at a plodding pace adding to the discomfort. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but it had a negative effect for me.

Anne of the Thousand Days-1969

Anne of the Thousand Days-1969

Director-Charles Jarrott

Starring-Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold

Scott’s Review #56

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Reviewed June 22, 2014

Grade: A-

Anne of the Thousand Days is one of the better historical dramas I have seen. One could become absorbed in the history of royalty and learn much. It has a clear Shakespearean quality to it (tragedy) and is compelling in many ways. It tells the true story of the tumultuous relationship between Henry VIII of England and his second wife Anne Boleyn, whose union produced one of the most famous queens, Elizabeth I. Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine, is discarded amid much controversy and political intrigue.

The drama is part of what makes this film so interesting, along with the historical element. It is dramatic, but not a soap opera and the acting superior. The film has gorgeous costumes and cinematography too. Unfortunately, the finale of the beheading left too much to the imagination and a more graphic scene would have put it over the top. Near excellent though.

Non-Stop-2014

Non-Stop-2014

Director-Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring-Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore

Scott’s Review #55

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Reviewed June 22, 2014

Grade: B-

I am a sucker for a good airline disaster action film. I found Non-Stop to have 2 parts- the first 1 hour and 15 minutes and the final 30 minutes. A film like this (action, popcorn flick) requires suspension of disbelief. The events in this film will NEVER happen.

In recent years, Liam Neeson, at 60 years old plus, has settled nicely into action hero star in mediocre to above average film roles. He has found his niche. The first part of the film is highly entertaining- 150 passengers on board an international flight from New York to London are in peril when a terrorist begins texting troubled U.S. Air Marshall (Neeson) that someone on the flight will die every 20 minutes unless 150 million dollars is transferred to their account. From this point begins a compelling whodunit. Which passenger is sending the text messages? Could it be a flight attendant or the captain of the plane? Several characters are introduced and some red herrings commence. Who begins framing the Marshall? Why? This is compelling fun stuff. Most of the action takes place on the plane giving the film a claustrophobic atmosphere.

Then, however, the second part of the film takes over. Not to give spoilers away, but it reaches a ridiculous, silly conclusion, and I found myself saying out loud, “this is stupid”. A needless and contrived plot of a little girl on the flight is trivial. Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame I expected more from and Lupita N’Yongo is given a throwaway role (let’s assume she was cast before her Oscar winning turn in 12 Years a Slave). Popcorn fun, but disappointing ending summarizes this film.

Dallas Buyers Club-2013

Dallas Buyers Club-2013

Director-Jean-Marc Vallee

Starring-Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto

Scott’s Review #54

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: A-

While Dallas Buyers Club is a well written screenplay, based on a true story of a straight Texas man who contracts the AIDS circa 1985, the main appeal of the film are the brilliant performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.

1985 was a different time period as far as the deadly virus goes- people did not know then what they do now, so the fear and the judgments featured in the film must be kept in mind for the time it was and the location (Bible-belt Texas).

McConaughey’s physical transformation is an amazing feat to begin with, a normally handsome, well-built actor, turned gaunt and hollow-eyed, but he completely encompasses this role with an intense, frenetic character deeply rich and flawed. His body language and mannerisms are mesmerizing. Leto’s performance as a transsexual, also stricken with the disease, is equally amazing. The character is immediately sympathetic and vulnerable- a wounded bird you would like to take under your wing and save. Despite the subject matter, the film itself is not a downer, nor does it attempt at being preachy. Rather, it is a tale of friendship, human growth, and survival in bleak times. Obviously, the film is dark, yet inspirational at the same time. McConaughey and Leto deserve their Oscar wins for these roles.

Mandingo-1975

Mandingo-1975

Director-Richard Fleischer

Starring-James Mason, Susan George

Scott’s Review #53

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Reviewed June 21, 2014

Grade: B+

Mandingo is quite the controversial film from 1975 and clearly inspirational to Quentin Tarentinos Django Unchained and also to 12 Years a Slave, as it is very similar to the latter of those films. It centers on a family of southern slave owners who eventually have physical relations and even romantic, loving relationships with their slaves. There is also a sub-plot involving bare knuckle fights to the death among the male slaves that is disturbing to witness.

The entire film is extreme and difficult at times, but also has a mystical, dreamlike element to it and is in no way an exploitation film. The sticky, hot, deep southern setting adds wonderful atmosphere. The romances are an interesting facet to the film, which I have never seen in similar themed movies. There is 1 sympathetic slave owner, but happily, the others get their comeuppance, one by one, which is delightful to watch. Interesting film as it inspired others to follow it and shows how far we have come as a society.

The Anniversary-1968

The Anniversary-1968

Director-Roy Ward Baker

Starring-Bette Davis

Scott’s Review #52

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Reviewed June 21, 2014

Grade: B+

The Anniversary is a British film based on a play of the same name. The story centers on the Taggert family reunion celebrating the anniversary of the matriarch (Bette Davis) and the deceased patriarch.

The film is set like a play and most of the action takes place inside the Taggert family mansion. The film is all Davis and she gives a delicious over the top performance as a vicious mother intent on controlling her 3 son’s lives and terrorizing their wives or significant others with cutting remarks and insults.

Davis must have had fun with this role as her storied career was clearly on the downturn and this role allowed her to let loose. One must wonder if Davis chewed up the actors in the cast as much as the characters- rumor has it she was quite intimidating to her fellow actors and a terror to work with which adds to the macabre enjoyment. Her physical appearance of an eye patch, wig, cigarette, and bright red lipstick all works in her favor. Her maniacal laugh is incredibly campy and wonderful to watch.

Bette Davis is one of the greats and this late career romp is fun to watch.

Oklahoma!-1955

Oklahoma!-1955

Director-Fred Zinneman

Starring-Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones

Scott’s Review #51

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Reviewed June 20, 2014

Grade: A-

Oklahoma is one of a slew of memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals to emerge from the 1950’s and 1960’s Hollywood and to be based from a popular stage version.  The film has an old west, homespun, comfortable appeal to it. and is best watched during the summer months. While seeming a bit too hokey and not my favorite musical as compared to  other more sophisticated stalwarts such as My Fair Lady, An American in Paris, or The Sound of Music, Oklahoma does emit a flavor and tasteful appeal of the west.

The plot  focuses on a love triangle between good old boy, Curly,  good girl, Laurey Williams, and brooding Jud, though the real rooting couple is Curly and Laurey.  The trio is  supported by a large array of townspeople both gossiping about and helping  Curly and Laurey admit their true feelings and come together as a couple. Of course, Jud is the villain and conflicts come into play all throughout the production. There is also a lesser couple , Will Parker and Ado Annie, who find their way into each others arms amid the traditional small town events such as a lively, summer fair.

Stars Gordon MacRae (Curly) and Shirley Jones (Laurey) are both very handsome and likable in the lead roles making for a nice paring.  Gloria Grahame is very appealing and comical as Ado Annie, especially in her rousing turn bellowing out “I Can’t Say No”, and Charlotte Greenwood is the moral voice of reason as Aunt Eller.

What works best in the film are the settings of Oklahoma, as the viewer experiences such a feel for life in the heartland long ago (though the exteriors were actually shot in Arizona). It’s pure fantasy enjoyment and there is a magical Wizard of Oz feel to it- though no cyclone  nor munchkins are anywhere in site. The film version closely follows the original stage version.

The musical numbers are quite catchy (“Oh What a Beautiful Morning”, “I Can’t Say No”, and “Oklahoma” are my favorites). The controversial mid number “Dream Ballet” is quite provocative and artistically enjoyable and jarringly different from the rest of the traditional tale.  This jaw-dropping number most certainly is on par with a similar spectacle in An American in Paris. Perhaps Oklahoma is not quite on par with other musicals of its day, but pretty close.

Philomena-2013

Philomena-2013

Director-Stephen Frears

Starring-Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Scott’s Review #50

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Reviewed June 20, 2014

Grade: A-

I am thrilled to see anything starring Judi Dench (although don’t get me started on my disdain of Shakespeare in Love). In fact, I could listen to her read the phone book as she has that voice that soothes and makes one content. Philomena is thankfully a starring role for Ms. Dench after supporting turns in the James Bond films as M. She plays a woman in search of her son who was taken from her by the Catholic Church 50 years ago. I respect a film that challenges an institution, especially if it is based on a true story.

In addition to her wonderful performance, the film is quite layered with a few twists and turns thrown in. Dench’s self- titled character begins an adventure, along with an author talked into championing her cause, to find the whereabouts of her child. It raises important questions about faith, religion, and specifically, the Catholic Church. It will leave you pondering after the credits roll. The main draw, certainly, is Judi Dench who is so simplistic yet effective in her performances. Well done.

The Sound of Music-1965

The Sound of Music-1965

Director-Robert Wise

Starring-Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer

Top 100 Films-#29

Scott’s Review #49

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Reviewed June 20, 2014

Grade: A

The Sound of Music is a film that most everyone has seen over and over again- undoubtedly ingrained in most people’s childhood memories and, especially, around the holiday season, it is a treasure to watch. It is tough to be objective as I’ve probably seen the film dozens of times and continue to appreciate and love it with each repeated viewing.

Maria (Julie Andrews) is a pretty, young free-spirited woman living in the gorgeous hills of Austria. In fact, we first meet her on a lush hilltop where she sings with the birds and enjoys life. While very popular with other nuns, she does not quite fit in at the Nonnberg Abbey where she studies to become a nun. She is sent to discover herself as the governess to seven children living nearby. They are the children of well-known, and now retired, Georg von Trapp (played by Christopher Plumber). Since his wife died, no life or music exists inside the house. Maria brings life and music to all and transforms everyone to a happier existence. The threat of the powerful Nazis, wishing to recruit a disapproving von Trapp adds tension. In the midst of it all, Maria and von Trapp fall madly in love.

As a musical it is top notch and is the hallmark of all musicals. The songs are tough to get out of one’s head (“The Sound of Music”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, and “My Favorite Things” are personal favorites), but the list of gems goes on and on.

The political/Nazi story was lost on me as a child, but now I see the film does have a darker tone in the second half and becomes quite serious.  Surely, since it is a family film details are glossed over a bit, but so what? It is more the wonderful music that makes The Sound of Music so great and memorable.

The first half, of course, is wholesomely sugary sweet and safe and, from what I’ve read, extremely loosely based on the real von Trapp family, but this hardly matters as it is escapism galore and that is needed sometimes.

I hate to dissect and over analyze a film like this when clearly it is a fantasy/musical extravaganza meant to be enjoyed. Lighthearted and fun for everyone.

Annie Hall-1977

Annie Hall-1977

Director-Woody Allen

Starring-Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

Scott’s Review #48

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Reviewed June 19, 2014

Grade: A

Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s finest work and that is says something as his list of wonderful films goes on and on (Manhattan, Blue Jasmine, and Interiors) are gems. Annie Hall is a witty, intelligent, great comedy. It is sharply written, quirky, and neurotic all rolled into one. Comedy is a tough genre. Romantic comedies are even tougher to get right.

My favorite part of the film is Woody Allen himself. Some might say he plays himself, but he is engagingly hysterical as the neurotic, skeptical, Jewish, cynical New York man named Alvy. He meets and falls in love with equally neurotic Annie Hall, played by Diane Keaton. They quarrel, love, and traverse from New York to California and back.

There are some very funny scenes (lobster, movie theater line, and the drive through Manhattan), and the intelligent, crisp dialogue makes this a top notch comedy.

Nashville-1975

Nashville-1975

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Karen Black

Top 100 Films-#7

Scott’s Review #47

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Reviewed June 19, 2014

Grade: A

Nashville is a brilliant film. I have found that with each subsequent viewing it creeps higher and higher on my list of favorite movies of all time. The style is unique (largely improvised) and epitomizes creative freedom in film during the 1970’s. Director Robert Altman lets his actors express themselves, even allowing them to write their own songs, the dialogue overlaps at times, which results in a natural feeling as the viewer watches the cast of 24 principles intersect over a period of 5 days at a political rally/country music festivals. It is pure Robert Altman at his finest.

Nashville is a satire of the political arena of the early1970’s and of the Vietnam conflict and politicians, specifically. The film certainly questions and challenges the government with an ironic patriotic setting (Nashville). The country music industry was in an uproar upon initial release of the film. It is a layered film that can be discussed and appreciated and each and every character is cared about. I cannot adequately describe the multitude of nuances in each scene that are noticed over time.

Each character- even some with limited screen time are important to the story as is the political elements- the questions of wars, policies, etc. abound. The chaotic bits and individual storylines come together at the end and many background happenings are incredibly interesting to watch and take note of throughout each viewing. With each experience the audience will notice more and more. I certainly do.

Lily Tomlin, for example, plays Linnea, a haggard mother of deaf children with a supportive husband, a woman who on the surface is heroic, yet she has is a complex character; she is bored with her life and falls in love with a young musician despite the guilt and repercussions.

The musician in question is Tom Frank, played by Keith Carradine. Handsome, and self-absorbed, he arrives in Nashville to dump his bandmates in hopes of a solo career, and beds many willing females. He also lashes out at a soldier at the airport, saying, “kill anyone lately?” Despite his unlikable character, Carradine gives one of the most beautiful performances in the film when he sings “I’m Easy”. Several  of the female characters assume he is singing the song for them, but who is he truly singing it for…if anyone?

Another character to analyze is Barbara Jean, played by Ronee Blakley. A frail yet very successful country singer, she is in and out of hospitals as she frets about her replacement singer stealing her thunder. Her insecurities rise to the surface. In fact, insecurity is a common theme among the characters. Many of them are either unsure, afraid, or not confident about either their musical talent, their relationships, or even themselves.

These are only 3 examples of the 24 richly layered characters- some ambitious, some falling apart, others meandering through life.

Many songs throughout were created by the actors themselves. Nashville is storytelling and filmmaking at its best. A creation by Altman that is deservedly admired, revered, and heralded as a major influence. It is studied in film schools as it should be.

Black Nativity-2013

Black Nativity-2013

Director-Kasi Lemmons

Starring-Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker

Scott’s Review #46

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Reviewed June 18, 2014

Grade: C-

Black Nativity is a family holiday movie about a poor Baltimore teen sent to live with his affluent, estranged grandparents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Basset) in Harlem. The teen’s financially struggling mother is played by Jennifer Hudson.

The estrangement stems from a silly misunderstanding in years past when Hudson’s character was pregnant with her now teenage son. I enjoyed the performances of Whitaker, Bassett, and Hudson, and the sprinkling of songs performed by the leads was nice, but the story was incredibly sappy and predictable and wrapped up in a nice bow at the end of the film. In fact, from scene one it screams predictable and safe. I did not sense any real conflict or grit throughout the entire movie and it felt like watching a Hallmark made for television movie- not a compliment.

The film is a nice family story, but little more. Skip unless you enjoy watered down family fare.

Animal Farm-1954

Animal Farm-1954

Director-Joy Batchelor, John Halas

Voices-Gordon Heath, Maurice Denhall

Scott’s Review #45

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Reviewed June 18, 2014

Grade: B+

Animated film based on the classic fable written by George Orwell. This film is quite different from the typically wholesome Disney animated film of the time and reportedly many parents were shocked by the subject matter (didn’t they read the book??).

Animation-wise, this film does resemble a Disney film as the colors and animals are meticulously drawn and composed. The tale, as anyone who has read the book knows, is quite dark and satirical/political, and sadly, is relatable today as class systems, power, and greed are still quite prevalent in today’s society. The ending of the film is changed and is more hopeful than the book ending, presumably to appeal to a larger audience.

The written fable is far superior to the film, though the film is well done and effective and gets the message across. Made in the 1950’s, it still holds up well and is a look at the dark side of humanity.

Frances Ha-2012

Frances Ha-2012

Director-Noah Baumbach

Starring-Greta Gerwig

Scott’s Review #44

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Reviewed June 18, 2014

Grade: B+

Frances Ha is an intelligent, quirky comedy made ever so appealing by its star, Greta Gerwig, an up and coming indie star (Greenberg, The House of the Devil). She is the heart of this film and has an intense rooting value to her. You want to be her friend.

Made in black and white, which is unique and highly effective in an indie way, it tells the tale of a moderately talented dancer struggling to make it in New York City. “Frances”, along with her best friend, hop from situation to situation in an attempt to establish normalcy. Gerwig shines with the perfect blend of awkwardness, sarcasm, and wit that she gives to the character and the viewer falls in love with her as she travels through many trials and tribulations. It’s a year in the life type of film. Reminiscent of a Woody Allen film as it contains many neurotic yet lovable characters.

Frozen-2013

Frozen-2013

Director-Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Starring-Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel

Scott’s Review #43

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Reviewed June 18, 2014

Grade: B

The adjective which springs to mind about the latest hit animated film that has overtaken the nation is “cute”. The story is loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson story (which is modified immensely) and tells the story of 2 royal sisters (Elsa and Anna), one of whom has special “ice” powers and accidentally injures the other causing a rift. From this point, there are a series of misunderstandings, love interests, a handsome prince, and an adventure through the snow, and a Snow White type theme. The story as a whole is uplifting, sweet, and certainly targeted to kids and parents seeking a wholesome, safe experience, but is it too safe?

My one criticism is the lack of diversity and culture in the main characters as they are all similar in looks, which doesn’t set the best example for kids watching. The musical numbers certainly stick in your head as I was humming them for days. The songs are very trendy, pop leaning which may make this film age quickly and have an overly current flavor. I loved the frozen, icy, wintry animation sets which are perfect while watching in the winter months. Olaf, the sidekick, mini snowman is witty and steals the show.

Welcome to my blog! My name is Scott Segrell. I reside in Stamford, CT. This is a diverse site featuring hundreds of film reviews I have created ranging in genre from horror to documentaries to Oscar winners to weird movies to mainstream fare and everything in between. Please take a look at my Top 100 Films section! This list is updated annually- during the month of September. Simply scroll down to the Top 100 Films category on the left or right hand side of the page. Enjoy and keep the comments coming!